"Oye!" "Oye!" "Escúchame!"
These are just a couple of the common conversation entry words used in the typical Chilean dialogue.
"Listen!" "Listen to ME!"
In the states, such outbursts would be thought of as rude or disrespectful; in Chile, it is the only way to enter into the conversation. After many overwhelming and frustrating attempts to communicate with groups of Chileans, especially groups of Chilean women, I have found an adequate metaphor to describe Chilean-style communication. Chileans talk like they drive: recklessly weaving, speeding, and breaking with occasional honks for good measure. What I interpret as brash and nerve-racking, they see as fluid and entertaining.
For example, last week I went out for drinks with some teachers from the English department at Saint George. Between sips of pisco sours and caipairiñas, teachers would literally shout to gain the group's attention, and hurriedly share an enthusiastic tale with intermittent interruptions and questions, before the group inevitably erupted into chaotic chatting and the next brave teacher raised her voice above the din. This cycle continued all evening, leaving the poor gringa (me) with little more conversation space than an affirmative head nod or whispered, "Sí." I wonder what a typical American conversation must seem like to a foreigner. After yesterday night and my previous driving experience in Santiago, I can plainly see that both my driving and conversing skills are lacking in Chilean audacity. I suppose the only solution is to buckle up and take my wheels out for a spin!